The old approach to the Castle used to be from the south leading towards the ancient city of Winchester. There is a narrow pass under Siddown hill, with a steep hillside falling away and, as the land flattens, the entrance is marked by a lodge and gate, unsurprisingly called Winchester Lodge.
As usual it was in dire need of repair so it has been one of our projects over the last six or seven months. It is the same team of delightful stone masons who worked on an earlier lodge, led by Eric from Heritage Building Conservation.
My husband, Geordie, and I are getting quite good at climbing up scaffolding and ladders. I am not brilliant with heights but too curious about the work to duck out. I try to remember my lack of fear as a child and combine that with yoga breathing…
It is always worth the climb and the builders are kind, full of knowledge and rightly proud of their work. Geordie tends to point out my lack of budgets on other building projects so I was thrilled to find out that his budget here (and this is HIS project) was similarly challenged. Instead of replacing 600 bricks as forecast it was now 1,650 and still rising … plus ça change. I tried not to grin too much!
Eric and team explained to me that each of the two parapets at the top weighed two tonnes whilst there was six tonnes of weight pressing down on the top of the arch which helped create the stability in the building. The detailed carvings that adorned the arch have spent the last few weeks in the workshop being recarved. They have just been reset at the top and look amazing.
What we are rebuilding here is the three hundred year old version of the gate house but this was just the replacement for a much earlier and considerably larger red brick gated entrance. I imagine there was an even earlier one in medieval times too. It is a very old road that has been there since times immemorial, complete with an alleged plague pit on one side and Bronze age tumuli. In recent times, and perhaps more pertinently, it was 200 yards before this gate, where the hillside is so steep, that Matthew in “Downton Abbey” drove his car off the road and was apparently killed. We took a sapling out and until the fateful day were sworn to secrecy…
On a happier note, however, Geordie and I safely climbed back down the ladders and retuned to Highclere for breakfast.
This is great bit of History Lady Carnarvon I like the sound of an even earlier one in medieval times too, as you say It is a very old road that has been there since times immemorial, complete with an alleged plague pit on one side and Bronze age tumuli. Just think if the Lodge & Road could talk what wonderful stories they could tell between them selfs 🙂 I would very much like to visit this one day soon just to feel the history vibes from such a great building, Your team Lady Carnarvon from Heritage Building Conservation are doing a 1st class job in keeping Highclere’s history alive 🙂
You are right – Eric and his team are great and will have done a 110% job. I would be delighted to show it you!
Thank you for this interesting post, as usual! The brick tuck-pointing always looks fun to me. I’m going to try it some day. It’s great that you and your Husband work on projects together. My Hubby and I do to, with some project results being better than others! HA! I will need to dictionary a tumuli??
One day we are going to visit your spot there.
Keep the great posts coming!
I think I would like to do some “blog” walks – it would be fun!
Nothing says “you have arrived” (literally), quite like Winchester Lodge. I was in awe of the site since I first saw it in DA, when Gwen, in frock, ascended the adjacent hill to meet a waiting Lady Sybil, in route to a job interview. I’m curious to know why there once was a lodge; might it have been for guests arriving in the overnight hours, or perhaps for overnight guests among a lesser class?
I am pleased to read that you and your husband are using the success of the Downton fame to restore the estate. How wonderful that you two are preserving history for many years to come. Thank you!
Just amazing. Was the “lodge” part of the original gate structure and was it used as housing for guest, etc.? Hopefully you can post (before and after) pictures after the project is completed.
There was once a very large lodge to one side which annoyingly was obviously knocked down over 100 years ago. I have just found some photos.
I will post a photo when the scaffolding comes down –
I certainly understand your budget comment. My husband and I are restoring an 1847 plantation home in Virginia. We have learned that once you have set your project budget, multiply X 3 and that will give you the actual budget!
What a fine construction. ‘Winchester Lodge’ is such a great name – it’s poetic. However, please excuse my ignorance: what is the difference between such a lodge and a ‘gate house’?
Also, is not the Winchester area famous for King Arthur’s legendary round table? I recall reading that there is/was a medieval version of the famous round table in Winchester that dates back (not as far as Arthur but) to the 13th Century or thereabouts.
It is not hard to imagine the old road that you described leading to the gate (although of a different surface to present) being used by knights of yore, and maybe even the earlier Roman garrisons of the region. And there exists the presence of a plaque pit and ancient burial mounds to which you have referred.
Such history that surrounds you!
Your husband and you are to be commended for the incredible efforts involved in maintaining such important (& so many important) structures and landmarks; thereby preserving a rich visual history for the rest of us. Thank you.
There was a gate and a lodge – as I said in the reply above the Lodge was knocked down… it is a shame, however I try not to jog backwards!
Winchester is famous as the capital of Wessex and that of the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great (849AD to 899AD). In fact I believe that 6 Anglo-Saxon kings are buried there. There are actual written records and some Anglo-Saxon charters, which was in fact a language I studied at university and continue to do so today – I feel very lucky I live in a good place where it actually has relevance.
The legend of King Arthur is one more of myth than fact but one I am researching a little at the moment as I pin down the timelines here.
The Romans flattened the Iron age fort on Beacon hill in about AD43 and this would have been a thoroughfare running north/south. I am sure there is more to find!
Yay, another ‘fix it up’ post – those are my favorite! I’m not the greatest with heights if I think too much about it, but I would have been up that scaffolding in a flash to check out the mason’s work and generally get in the way. 🙂 I bet there are some great views too.
I hope you have a lovely remaining week, and thanks for the post. It’s always fun to see the email in my inbox notifying me of a new post.
thank you your Lady Ship for the blogs most interesting re the gate house AKA Winchester did the original road head towards the area known as Seven Barrows? has it been a while since the lodge was occupied? sincerely PJMills
Thank you for sharing another slice of your life, with details that stir the imagination and that help me envision myself again at Highclere. I always appreciate your taking the time to write.
Lady Carnarvon, what a amazing project this is and awaiting the finished results. Sure it will be wonderful. Thank you once again for sharing with us, Regards,Jacquie
While I am sure it is a lot of hard work, you must be having such fun discovering the history of these places as you repair and preserve them. Thanks so much for sharing these projects. I am very happy to say that I have my entrance pass and tea ticket to visit Highclere in late May. I’ll get to see your wizardry up close and personal. THANKS!
Stan (in Portland, Oregon USA)
Love the history tales and love how you are taking care of this amazing place. Keep it up!
I dearly love your tales of the work being done to keep Highclere in good order! Fascinating to think of all the history behind these buildings and roads. I do so hope to get there one day. My son has been and he just was fascinated. We are from the Longwood Gardens area of PA, but our lovely history is not very old compared to rest of the world. Best to you in all your endeavors and thank you!
I think Highclere gives me such a strong sense of place and that leads to a sense of order… those words were so often in my head when I was writing the Catherine and Almina books ….
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I enjoy your posts very much and look forward to every one. I especially appreciate the history of Highclere, and I believe in the restoration work ya’ll are doing. Thank you for writing about it!
I have spent the whole day in the archives today (no phone) and loved reading about the stories about my predecessors doing exactly the same, seeing what “alterations” and simple maintenance they needed to undertake.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for very interesting blog! How can you spend the whole day without phone?
It is quite difficult nowadays.
Very interesting history of Highclere. I too am not good with heights, but for something like this I would have gotten over it! So glad you are able to restore this beautiful piece of architecture…Nice to think it will be there for future generations.
My wife and I are Americans who decided to move to Poland 8 years ago. My ancestral roots are all Polish but I didn’t know about my extended family in Poland until I was 55 and my mother died. We moved to Poland so I could discover my unknown family here. We have been watchiing “Abbey” since it started and when I learned it was film in a living estate still owned by the generations linking each other, I was very happy. The fact that the TV series continues to help you restore the estate is fantastic. In the province we live in we have 945 palaces but not enough money to take care of them and many are in ruins. I am glad to see the work you and your husband do to restore your estate as it should be and hope when the series ends you will continue to prosper from the interest already generated in Highclere.
An American, American West history buff, but recently intrigued with United Kingdom kings, queens & royalty in general by watching an Henry VIII documentary, the history & generations who lived & maintained these immense holdings fascinates me to no end. There is nothing at all like these places in America. I cannot fathom what five-hundred years or more is like. There are structures still standing in New England that date to the middle 18th century but these old colonial sites pale in comparison to Europe’s ancient wonders still standing. It is admirable the way you & your husband are putting so much work into the estate. A great deference & Long Live Highclere Castle.
I share a “hesitation” about heights and have tried to tame the fear, like you!
Please, a question: I’m researching visit options and would like to do and see everything, since this will be our first and only visit to Great Britan. If we book tickets for the Capability Brown tour of Gardens and Parkland, are the regular Castle and Egyptian Exhibit admissions included? I don’t want to miss a thing!
Also, will Capability Brown tours be available in the summer months of July, August, September? October?
Hope to hear from you soon~
My husband (carpenter and welder) is fascinated by ancient structures – the artistry created without the modern technology we rely on today.